Betaed by kaltia♥
* * * * * * *
If fate means you to lose, give him a good fight anyhow.
It was a pure miracle.
Edward could still remember the feeling of helplessness as the police officer Hughes rushed his friend to the mansion-turned-base's medical center. Alfons had been losing a lot of blood and they were running of time. Ed had even offered on the spot to donate his own blood, before his brother stopped him.
"We have different blood types, remember? Mine would be safer," Alphonse had said as he had rolled his own sleeve and offered it to the doctor.
Alfons Heiderich was the luckiest son-of-a-bitch he'd ever had the pleasure of knowing, but Edward wondered if luck be enough to help his friend once more.
* * *
It was disconcerting to see him there, lying on the ward bed like a corpse.
True that Alphonse had seen living corpses. He had even known one who shared his mother's face, and despite his hesitance to fight that particular corpse years before, he had learned to separate that face from the smiling face from his memories. Another one shouldn't have bothered him as much as it had, despite the fact that the elder boy shared his own face, albeit in different colors.
But Alfons Heiderich was not dead.
And Alphonse couldn't figure out why that scared him.
* * *
Alfons had nearly screamed the first time he saw the boy. It had taken a few sedatives to clear his mind and enable him to recall Edward's story about a younger brother who resembled him perfectly.
He'd just never thought that they would be this alike.
Alfons began to realize why Edward had been having difficulties with seeing him as a person in his own right, rather than as a mere substitude of his beloved brother.
* * *
Alphonse Elric had started learning German. He spent most of his time reading by Alfons' bedside. Occasionally the younger boy would ask him about several things he didn't understand and Alfons would try to explain it with his limited English.
By the time Alfons was recovered enough to leave his bed, Alphonse had mastered enough German to manage simple conversations. Alfons would sit on a chair next to the table while Alphonse cooked dinner, chattering away with his limited vocabulary and occasional reverting back to English. And they would sit together and have dinner, and later they would continue to sit and talk while waiting for Edward to come home. Edward never said a word about his absence, but both of them knew that he had been trying to find a job in order to support the three of them.
An hour or two after they had finished their dinner, Edward would come home and eat the the leftovers, before the three of them would start talking again. Sometimes Edward and Alphonse talked about things that Alfons didn't understand, but he would let it pass and continue as if nothing were wrong.
Who was he to complain anyway?
* * *
Alphonse found out about the problem with Alfons' lungs by accident. It was true that he had thought that the older boy coughed more than a normal person should, but Alfons had always brushed it off and blamed it on the weather. After all, the new year was near and the temperature was getting lower and lower.
It had taken him an unplanned midnight trip to the bathroom.
Alfons had been standing there in front of the mirror, blood smears on his chin and hands and the towels, and Alphonse could only stare in horror as he was assulted by images of his dying mother, and knew that it was only a matter of time before his alter followed.
But this time he refused to just sit back and watch.
* * *
Edward noticed the change in Alphonse's behavior almost immediately. If his brother had been careful around Alfons before, he was now treating the older boy like precious porcelain.
Alfons must have noticed too, if the subtle annoyance that radiated out from him was any indication.
Alphonse had started to ask him for access to the library, which Edward had granted if only half-heartedly. Edward had long since learned that there were things that no amount of science could help and this was one of them. He had decided to quash the urge to play hero and just let Alfons enjoy his last days in as much comfort as possible.
He just hoped that Alphonse would realize that soon too. He would hate to see his baby brother hurt again.
* * *
It was not long after the start of the new year began when, Alfons' health began to deteriorate fast. By February, he could hardly leave bed without help.
Edward saw the restlessness in Alphonse's eyes as they spent yet another sleepless night on Alfons' side. Those eyes would dart from Alfons' pale complexion and back to his own hands and then back, and Edward knew that his brother was dying to be able to do something, anything, to escape the helplessness. For one selfish moment, Edward couldn't help but wonder if it would havebeen better for Alphonse if Alfons had died back in Haushofer's mansion that time, before he halted that line of thought and felt ashamed for wishing death upon his best friend.
But looking at the pained face on the bed, Edward wondered if death would have been more merciful.
* * *
He gazed at the brothers, both fast asleep. Edward was still sitting in the chair in the corner of the room, while Alphonse was leaning on the edge of the bed, pillowing his face with his arms.
Alfons moved his hand, trying to reach Alphonse's bangs, but the limb refused to obey his command. He sighed wistfully, and allowed himself to resort to just watch the boy silently.
Alfons wondered what good deeds he'd done in his life, to deserve such a good end.
He had never felt bad for not telling his parents about his condition. He knew that they would have dragged him back to Romania and he would have lost this last chance to be with Edward and Alphonse. The chance to get to know the two for real.
He was grateful that he had had the chance to know his alternative self.
He turned his gaze to the elder of the brothers.
And he was glad that he had met Edward.
* * *
Alfons was already cold when Alphonse woke up the next morning. And even as his brother ushered him out of the room, he couldn't take his eyes off the dead boy's face.
He didn't think that he could ever forget that peaceful smile.
* * *
Edward was still standing in front of Gracia's flower shop as the car which was taking Alfons' parents to the train station disappeared around the corner. He gave the corner one last look before he turned and went in.
When he walked into their shared flat, Alphonse had just finished packing the last of their things and sat contemplatively in the midst of the empty apartment.
"Are you okay?"
Alphonse looked up at him and gave him a weak smile.
"I'll be fine."
Edward nodded and went over to his brother to pick up his suitcase. Alphonse stood up and followed suit.
"Come on. We have a world to save."
Wordlessly, his younger brother followed him out of the room. As Edward closed the door to the flat, he gave the empty space one last look and thought that even though luck had not been enough to save his friend, it had been kind enough to give him something to remember.
* * * * * * *